If at first you don’t succeed, try Mexican food instead.
The management of the short-lived 29 Degrees Sports Bar & Grill revamped the concept and the restaurant has been reborn into Mangos Fiesta Mexicana. The new Mexican eatery and live music venue in downtown Modesto on J Street opened last weekend. The spot now caters to the Spanish-speaking crowd through its entertainment and menu.
The former 29 Degrees opened last August, but then shuttered at the end of the year. General Manager Alex Aguilar admits the concept, and the service, were lacking when they opened 29 Degrees. The defunct restaurant’s uninspiring two-star Yelp rating bears that out.
“The concept didn’t work. We couldn’t put together the right staff. We had problems and learned from our mistakes,” Aguilar said.
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Mangos has an all-new staff and head chef. Instead of the Hooters-like uniforms of tank tops and short shorts the waitstaff wore at 29 Degrees, the Mangos crew wears white shirts, black vests and bow ties. The interior has been painted and they’ve scaled back on the 40 massive flat-panel TVs that were everywhere. Now they’re just around the bar. A raised stage and small dance area sits toward the back.
Aguilar described the menu as “tourist resort” food you could find in Puerto Vallarta and other popular Mexico destinations. That includes an assortment of parrilladas (a barbecue mix of meats, vegetables and fruits that serves two) served on a brasero (indoor grill that uses briquettes). Other eye-popping offerings include the charolas (appetizer and alcohol combos served on a tray), that come in six- or 12-drink sizes. One of its signatures is the Cerveza Loka, which includes Modelo beer, shrimp, pork rinds, cucumbers, peanuts, limes, hot sauce and Chamoy spice.
“You bring them to the table and people right away start taking pictures of it,” Aguilar said.
The only holdover from the old menu is the sushi, which, hey — whatever works, I guess.
But the food is meant to be only half the attraction. Mangos — which is currently only open Friday and Saturday nights and Sundays — has live entertainment each day. The sound system has been upgraded to accommodate the new focus on live Spanish-language music. Friday nights are dinner and a show with live bands and comedians; Saturday is live touring bands; and Sunday is live mariachi and banda music. There are covers for Friday and Saturday nights and Sundays are free. Performing this Friday night will be Ruben Cerros, a well-known Paquita la del Barrio impersonator.
“We want to make it a celebration when people come here,” Aguilar said. “We want it to be like a special occasion all the time.”